Jerwood Makers Open, Manchester Art Gallery
I’ve been buying a lot of green recently. I’ve been wearing a lot of green recently. When I compliment people on how they look it takes a few seconds to realise that it’s cos I like their top and their top is green. I pick up a mug in a shop and I show it to erin and I say hey look at this, nice, then I think maybe I just like it cos it’s green. I’m wearing my green jumper while i write this. I feel like a little girl with a favourite colour. I feel like that woman from New York who only wears green.
I first saw Jerwood Makers Open at Jerwood Space when I was there with bairns before our show Collaborate! (exclamation mark part of the title, not my intonation) We were looking at ~the space and picking our ideal spots. We wandered around looking at the walls behind the pieces and thinking about the size of the rooms. As the group of us snaked around the work a piece of paper on the wall caught Team Bairns’ eyes and we reached out hands grabbing. We’d found Bethan Lloyd Worthington’s work, a risoprinted pamphlet that we unfolded and refolded as we got to grips with it’s neat lip along the top of each page and whispered about the (gorgeous) colour choice (teal and green? Maybe? A minty green? Someone tell me?)
Jerwood Makers Open followed us home to Manchester, a few months behind our works as they were posted back to my flat after Collaborate! (exclamation mark model’s own). I didn’t make time to go but I found time after I wandered out of my hypnotheraptists office and into the cold sunny day that made me want to walk home along the canals. I was feeling great I was breathing in green (self control, my hypnotherapist says, as I visualise myself in a rainbow) and I was at the foot of the steps to the Manchester Art Gallery portico when I thought hey el works there I’ll go give her a kiss. I ran into her just outside the giftshop and when we’d been stood chatting for a bit too long she said go look at the exhibition then come back in a bit. You can have this if you bring it back after, it’s supposed to be four pound fifty. I’d wanted to go home via the canals but I went to the show.
Four pound fifty exhibition guide in my hand (was the a free option? My High Connections meant I didn’t check) I headed into the downstairs space, turned right and our old friend Bethan Lloyd Worthington was there waiting for us, folded along 3 clever lines, tucked into a holder on the wall. As instructed, I took the free pamphlet art and held it as I skimmed the four pound fifty guide. This work is about the colour green. Sold.
I had a quick glance over Bethan’s ceramics, mounted in a black/dark dark dark green rectangle on the wall before I read her pamphlet and it destroyed me. Bethan works through her greens (oxides and glazes, trees and crocodiles) and her pinks (flesh and skies). The greens begin to be sandwiched by these pinks, as she talks about her glaze turning from white to pink through presence of green. She talks about three women standing under a tree, who are arrested under the 5am sky. The tree is cut down. The garden trellis is linked with the guillotine through Rousseau. A building burns, trees are cut, our friend Bethan makes ceramics, ribbon is tied around a tree, a french public execution, trees on google street view. The text is probably one and a half sides long and I’ve been taken to Sheffield, Versailles, Tortuga. I’ve failed at making a pot and failed at saving a tree. People have died and a ship has burnt and sank. The sun has risen. Trees have grown (slowly).
I look up and I feel different and yes I forgot my propranolol but this is still Valid, my friends. I look back to the ceramics and where before I saw random torn shapes and objects stuck on a wall I indeed see a kind-of-mind-map of different green moments and different failures and different experiments. I think of the green of the cushions in my flat, the green of George’s jumper, the green of my dressing gown, the green paint mum has bought, a green glass I saw in the gift shop. In the corner of the dark dark dark green rectangle I see a green mug. This is really good.
Jerwood Makers Open also features Mark Corfield-Moore, Forest + Found, Lucie Gledhill, and Tana West. Tana West’s piece made me feel lonely and caged like I was in a sad afterlife. Forest and Found made everything smell like a forest. Lucie Gledhill made me miss my grandpa and want to watch him make his carvings that he does for us at Christmas. There were cool little bits where you could see materials from the a couple artists processes which I loved.
The exhib made me want to: watch The Great Pottery Throwdown; learn to carve; wrap myself up in a blanket
Go to the exhib if you like: The Great Pottery Throwdown; worrying about how we are breaking the earth; imagining the artists as really sexy people labouring in a woodland somewhere; Instagram videos of people carving; process-based making; danish homeware.